A tasting menu is basically a series of many dishes in small servings, often complete with a selection of wines, from which the consumer chooses a dish that he or she wants to order more often. The French term for a tasting menu, also called menu de tasting, is oublie estoureuse. In other cases, the term is used loosely and can apply to any number of selections that a diner can choose from. Regardless of its original use, today’s tasting menu typically includes the following options: cheese, meat, vegetable, specialty cuisine, and other food items.
A cheese tasting menu, for instance, may feature a variety of cheeses along with a selection of different wines, such as Merlot, a crisp Chardonnay, or a delicate white Shiraz. The wine list may include a white wine such as Pinot Noir, a Pinot Meunier, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zinfandel, a Muscadet, or an array of wines from the region around Champagne, France. Along with the different wines, the restaurant may offer a variety of appetizers and side dishes, such as crisp salad choices, vegetable dishes, pastas, desserts, and other food items. The chef may also provide a selection of menus based on his experience and preference. New chef’s will often develop tasting menus based on the clientele at his or her establishment.
In the United States, the term menu tasting has become a widely accepted term. However, in Europe and Japan, the term menu means the entire set of dishes, not just a selection of wine or cheese. The term menu in Japanese and European languages is much narrower than in American English, pertaining only to a single selection of food. The term can also indicate that the selection is a casual, appetizer-based meal offered to customers without dessert. Either way, the tasting menu has evolved over the years to become one of the most popular menu selections at restaurants around the world.